Letters, calls and emails: DoH has never set a cap on private sector

Dear Editor

Your leader (Don’t ask the DoH where the NHS is going, GP, 29 September) claims that I have revealed that the ‘15 per cent lid on private involvement in the NHS is to be officially scrapped’.  

There has never been a 15 per cent lid or target for private-sector involvement.  

My predecessor John Reid predicted that, during his lifetime, private-sector provision of elective operations was unlikely to go above 15 per cent.  

I have said repeatedly that our estimate is that, over the current wave of central procurement, independent-sector treatment centres will be doing around 8 per cent of these operations. But it is patients who will choose where they go.  

Private-sector involvement in the NHS is nothing new. I recently opened a new health centre in Middlesbrough complete with GP practice, pharmacy, PCT-provided physiotherapists, district nurses and other community services, minor surgery and much else besides. The centre is wholly owned by a private company whose shareholders are the partners in the GP practice. Some will call that privatisation (though presumably not GP). I call it getting the best for NHS patients in a disadvantaged community.  

Practice-based commissioning gives GPs a huge opportunity to work with hospital and PCT colleagues to redesign services to get the best care for patients. That is why I stressed that GPs and other commissioners, with their patients, will increasingly decide where the NHS goes, not ministers in London.  

Patricia Hewitt  

Secretary of state for health 

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